All across the country, tailgating plans are being made and fans are eagerly awaiting the reports from the first week of practice. The 2012 college football season is upon us. I have my tickets, transportation, and hotels all worked out for week 1 – a classic double dip of games. Michigan takes on Alabama in Dallas Saturday night followed by a perennial powerhouse matchup – SMU at Baylor on Sunday night. If anyone has a good recommendation for good barbecue in Waco Texas, send it my way. Later in this post I give some predictions on some over/under regular season win totals for some of the nation’s most interesting teams this year.
I commented on the Penn State situation in my last post and was very happy when the NCAA didn’t enforce the death penalty. That being said, I’m extremely nervous about the new power Mark Emmert has now acquired. For those of you who plan on rooting against Penn State with a passion this year, shame on you. The players and recruits who choose to stay should be supported and commended for their loyalty. Bill O’Brien is doing a terrific job navigating this unprecedented situation and I wish him the best of luck going forward.
My one big prediction back in May was that Mitt Romney would select then unheralded Senator Rob Portman as his Vice Presidential candidate. Portman’s chances of being chosen have risen dramatically since then, giving me hope for this season. 2012 will be a very successful season for my picks, both in college football and in politics. My two passions are very similar – offseasons continually involve scandals and embarrassing decisions made by people in power. The decisions made in both politics and college football revolve entirely on seemingly endless amounts of money. If Bobby Petrino hasn’t called up Anthony Weiner to discuss ways to structure a career comeback, he is doing himself a disservice. I connect well with the slogans for both the Obama and Romney campaigns. Obama’s is “Forward,” a reminder to forget the troubles of the past and focus on how great the future can be. 2011 was a terrible year for my picks, but I’ve moved on and need one more chance from all of you to return to greatness. Romney’s is “Believe in America,” which resonates well with my traveling schedule. College football is the best sport in America and I’m barnstorming the nation this year to experience new traditions and new stadiums – seeing games in at least seven states. But enough about politics for now – I’m just so thrilled to finally have the focus of college football back on wins and losses, with games less than a month away.
Regular Season Win Predictions
Clemson Over 8.5 wins
The Tigers have arguably the best offensive weapons in the nation with Deandre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins at WR, Andre Ellington at RB, and Tajh Boyd returning at QB. People are nervous about predicting another big year for this team because the memory of their disgraceful defensive showing in the Orange Bowl, allowing 70 points to WVU. This year’s defense will be significantly better under Brent Venables, with a lot of returning starters at LB and in the secondary. All three losses in the regular season in 2011 were on the road, but this year’s schedule sets up much better – with at Florida St as the only likely road loss. Clemson gets VaTech at home and with a win against Auburn in Atlanta to start the year, the fighting Dabo Swinney’s get to 9 or 10 wins on the year.
Arizona State Under 5 wins
Karma is going to come back to bite Coach Todd Graham. His decision to leave Pitt after one season was shameful and he’ll pay for it this season. The Sun Devils return just 8 starters from last season, the fewest in the PAC 12. With a group of freshman quarterbacks fighting each other for the starting job, this could be a long year. The schedule is tough (facing both USC and Oregon, and non conference games vs Missouri and Illinois) so reaching a bowl game will be a very difficult task.
Miami Over 6.5 wins
Was there any doubt I would be making this prediction? There is clear and significant bias in this pick, but nevertheless l’ll try to convince you it’s legit. Miami went 6-6 in 2011, but all six losses were by eight points or less. QB Stephen Morris is much better than most people realize, and Al Golden has some young talented playmakers to help him. The “us against the world mentality” this team now wears with pride will help navigate the Canes through the distractions of looming NCAA sanctions. Charles Robinson at Yahoo will likely continue long boring stories about “potential violations” using his standard info from “anonymous sources.” Golden’s entire mantra is about running a clean program and I trust him. I’m glad Robinson’s most recent frame job is being largely dismissed by the media. Miami was horrible at forcing turnovers last season and that’s been a focus area this offseason. With a few more bounces going their way, the Canes get it done this year.
Notre Dame Under 8.5 wins
This line is actually -210 which means most expect Notre Dame will fall short of nine wins. I’m even more confident than most in this prediction and think the Notre Dame over under should be set at 8 or 7.5. Notre Dame has a brutal schedule with three likely losses in road games against Michigan State, Oklahoma, and USC. If ND loses those three, they would have no more room for error and would need to beat Stanford, BYU, Pitt, and Michigan at home and beat Miami at Soldier Field. Brian Kelly will be starting a QB with limited experience in Andrew Hendrix or Everett Golson. I think we’ll once again be seeing a lot of Kelly’s face exploding in anger on the sidelines this season. ND needs to realize that it’s not 1990 anymore and relax a little bit in scheduling, because this year’s is far too difficult.
Oklahoma State Over 7.5 wins
The Cowboys have two star running backs in Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith, and I expect them to take some of the pressure off freshman QB Wes Lunt. OK State will be much better on defense, returning seven of their top eight tacklers from last season. In the pass happy Big 12, having one of the nation’s best defensive backs units will give the Cowboys an edge. If Coach Mike Gundy can protect his young QB in an early test at Arizona, his team will start 3-0 on the way to 8 or 9 wins. The schedule is back loaded and will give Lunt a chance to mature as the year goes on.
West Virginia Over 8.5 wins
The Mountaineers are going to have a huge year in their introduction to the Big 12. The offense is outstanding with QB Geno Smith, RB Dustin Garrison, and WR’s Tavon Austin and Steadman Bailey all returning after breakout seasons a year ago. Dana Holgorsen knows how to put up points in this league, proven by his success at Texas Tech. He now is armed with some of the best skill players in the conference. This team should start 5-1 at the worst, and potentially 6-0 if they can escape Austin with road win over the Horns.